It took a few seconds for Nigelís brain to register what he was seeing. The moment he realised who it was he closed his eyes, enormously relieved. All his trepidation instantly slipped away as he let go of his long held breath, having half expected to have a semi-automatic rifle shoved into his face when the hatch popped open.
Sydney was the first to crawl out, stiff and anxious, her eyes skirting behind them to see if there were any more soldiers around.
"Relax Sydney, theyíre gone." Aaron proudly announced.
"How on earth did you manage that?" Nigel wanted to know as he scrambled out the tail end of the aircraft. "What did you do? Where are they?"
"I behaved badly, cussed, kicked up a fuss, and told them all to go to hell."
Sydney, doing her best to try and calm down, widened her eyes in disbelief. "You did not."
"I did so. I convinced them they had the wrong plane, and that all they would find here would be crates of tobacco and goat droppings." He stood up to full height and puffed out his chest like a peacock. "And that was ALL they found."
"Youíre a real piece of work Aaron." Sydney confessed, feeling her heart rate slowly return to normal. "So, now where do we go from here?"
Nigel glanced at his watch... it was almost ten oíclock. "Are we going to be running through the night again? Because if we are, I want to be prepared."
"Thatís the spirit Nigel!" Aaron slapped him proudly in the back, and for the second time, sent the Englishman close to flying. "I knew youíd make a great adventurer once you got into the swing of things!"
Truth be told, he already WAS a great adventurer, Sydney had seen to that a long time ago. She smiled inside, knowing a great compliment when she heard one even though it wasnít directed to her, and followed the men out to a waiting jeep.
Morning found the three Ark seekers driving out along a desolate dirt road into the east, fast approaching the first steppes of the Karduchian Mountains and the elusive Mount Cudi Dagh... Nigel and Aaron took turns driving through the night, leaving Sydney to sleep after her first three hours behind the wheel. Nigel refused to wake her, sensing that for some reason she really needed the rest, and he insisted on driving in her place. He was still upset over her less than full disclosure about the trip, but his hurt feelings had to be placed on the back burner for now. He was still angry with her, but something was up with Sydney, and he just couldnít pin point it for sure. One minute she was fine, the next she was clinging to him like a little girl, afraid of her own shadow... Highly unusual for the woman who normally was saving him every time he got his ass in a sling! For crying out loud, Syd had never been claustrophobic before. Things were just getting more and more peculiar as time wore on... Were there other things about this Ark hunt that she kept from him? He usually knew everything about where they were going and all the risk involved before he set foot on the plane. Now soldiers were chasing them through some pretty nasty Turkish backcountry, and their only guide was a modern day Bible quoting space cowboy!
"So whatís the next check point Aaron?" Sydney asked, going over her own map carefully. She didnít want to miss anything.
"Well, our next stop isnít a town, but a wandering village. I have arrangements for one of the locals to escort us the rest of the way from there."
"You donít have an exact location for these people?" Aaron glanced over to him with one of those Ďwhat do you thinkí looks. Nigel just wasnít surprised any more, and he leaned his head back, groaning, and dragged a frustrated hand over his weary eyes.
Sydney wasnít impressed either, and after pulling her hair into a tidy ponytail, she leaned over the seat between the two men. "Well, thatís just wonderful. If there was anything I love more than jumping off a building blindfolded, itís having to search for my guide goat herder to goat herder through over a thousand square miles of brush and forest. Wonderful!"
"Itís not as bad as youíre making it sound, come on!" Aaron defended himself. "I know where they go for the night and where they go to graze in the day. Donít worry, I have an inner compass, and it hasnít failed me yet!" "Itís the yet part that worries me Aaron." She pursed her lips together and fell back to her seat with a thud.
"Are you sure weíre EVER going to get to the Ark?" Although he was extremely excited about their discovery during the flight, he was losing a lot of patience for Aaronís lack of organisational skills. In fact, it was driving poor Nigel batty. "And what of the local rebels out here? Sydney told me you had an arrangement?"
Aaronís face brightened. "Absolutely I do!"
"Then Aaron, honey, whatís that ahead?"
Sydney, of course, was referring to the boys dressed in combat boots and camouflage gear, with really big guns held waist high just up at the curve in the road.
Aaron squinted his eyes until they finally came into focus. "Uh-oh... That ainít them."
Go to Part Fourteen.